“‘Tis caused by the travails of wayfare and my case needs care, for I have suffered from the change of water and air!”
The last (Korean) owner of my copy of Burton’s amusingly-rhymed Arabian Nights has penned between these two lines a unique definition for travails—pangs of childbirth. I remember learning from a certain Hampshire professor that the Greeks (the Greeks! the Greeks! always with the Greeks!) believed that the sky impregnated the soil of the earth with rainfall; if we read this text the Korean way, raincoats double as contraceptives.
(That professor was an old wizard—all he lacked was a color-changing beard—I write books inside my books, and hope their future readers are just as judgmental or stupid as I am, or that their pages taste flames before anyone can see my margins filled with my inanition, my inanities)
A nice girl I spoke to yesterday told me she thought her own language was comfortable. I’ve found it slippier than a live octopus. Consciously I am interested in Korean; the same subconscious mind that wakes me at four in the morning also has no interest in learning a language that can seemingly contribute nothing to my meager abilities. As it impossible for me to become fluent (since I plan to bolt through the walls like a cartoon the moment my contract ends, leaving a sound-effect and a puff of white smoke) it is only practical, and therefore useless, though not useless in the pleasant way that The Arabian Nights is useless.
And oh to suffer from such travails as water and air! I’ve kept my privations private, which is my excuse for not writing here, as I’ve sent a great deal of mostly unanswered messages and emails elsewhere; the trouble is that I no longer possess the illusion of a purpose. My delicate caravel flounders in the thrashing foam of a thunderstorm, lightning strikes and the compass blurs with the wheel! Where am I to go? What am I to do? If only the job listings showed how much certain jobs would crush your soul! The ideal for me is a library, a city full of old desperately-missed friends whom I will hug and kiss until they are no more (when I see them again…), and a river of coffee draining into my gaping fishlips. I think I need little else. A couch to rise up and catch me, a comfortable chair, would be nice, because my spine is going to snap like a wishbone from all this leaning and slouching. I am a moist salamander, a wriggling amphisbaena, my heads need rest, and how they will sigh together when they attain that rest.
In response to swine-flu hysteria, the city has deployed mass amounts of old women to the subway stations, equipping them with spray bottles, rags, and gloves; it is hoped that the application of this task force will allay the epidemical beast. As for the symptoms of swine-flu, they include a certain pinkening of the skin, a certain propensity to snorting, a fattening of the nostrils and lengthening of velvety ears, abusive nicknames, speech impediments, resemblances to Orson Welles, etc. etc. If untreated patients become pigs and, eventually, mouth-watering porkchops.
If you possess a comfortable couch, sit in it for me, and think of your friend Ian. I’ll try to write more.